Hundreds of social networking sites exist to support a wide variety of interests around the world, according to a 2007 article in the “Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.” These social networking sites connect strangers and friends together, and incorporate a wide variety of communication tools such as blogging, mobile connectivity and photos or videos shared with other users. Many of these social networking sites encourage users to upload personal information, multimedia files and photos that can be shared with others – although, often indiscriminately.
Seventy percent of teens use social networking sites, according to an article on the U.S. Department of Labor website. One of the most serious problems related to these sites concerned safety issues and reports of sexual interactions between adults and minors on MySpace, according to the “Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.” Other issues related to privacy concerns include false information posted by online users and unwanted sexual solicitations. Regular use of social media sites also increases the risk of teen alcohol use, according to information from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Grades, Socialization and Behavior
Social media can be distracting, according to an article on the Psych Central website. Teens who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period had lower grades. In addition, those teens who used Facebook more often are more likely to display narcissistic behavior, antisocial behavior, mania, aggressive tendencies, anxiety and depression. On a positive note, however, teens on Facebook were better at showing empathy to online friends, and social networking can help provide tools to help teens engage with others. The Dept. of Labor also noted that teens with disabilities can socialize anonymously, which may be beneficial in some cases.
The Online World
More than 50 percent of teens log onto a social media site such as Twitter, and they view video sites such as YouTube or access gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life and the Sims, according to a March 2011 article in "Pediatrics." The article notes that many teens’ social and emotional development is now taking place online, which can be problematic because teens are still developing self-regulation skills and are susceptible to peer pressure. Cyberbullying, cliques and sexting may result from online use, and the article expresses concerns about Internet addiction and sleep deprivation.
Risks and Benefits
Social media has positives, according to the Dept. of Labor. Social networking sites enable users to keep up with their friends and can decrease feelings of isolation. Creating a profile or home page enables creative expression. Regular use of technology promotes competence. Social networking offers the opportunity to discuss school assignments or topics that may be more difficult to discuss in person. These positives are counterbalanced by risks, however, such as sharing information with the wrong people or sharing much more than one might in person. Once the information is posted, it might not be possible to remove it, and inappropriate information could be problematic.